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The majority of Laos festivals are based in the Buddhist faith that dominates the country and hold an important religious significance for Lao people, thus festival dates may be flexible as they are tied to the lunar calendar.
October 2 @9am onward
Organised by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the food festival is to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Asean and the 20th anniversary of Laos becoming an Asean member.
There will also be exhibitions at booths by Asean nations and other friendly countries that have offices in Laos.
Where: Parking lot of the National Culture Hall, Vientiane.
October 5, all days
End of Buddhist Lent (Boun Awk Pansa in Lao language) is one of significant Laos festivals. The festival starts with almsgiving ceremonies in early morning and in the evening there is lighting of candles in and around the temples and the lovely ceremony of Lai Hua Fai or fireboats, where small "boats" made of sections of banana tree trunks decorated with flowers, and lit candles are floated down the nearest river.
In Vientiane and the border town of Nong Khai, Thailand, this is the day that the Naga (mythical water spirit) is supposed to send fireballs into the sky from the Mekong which has become a big attraction for many people who flock to the river banks to try to sight these elusive fireballs.
The End of Buddhist Lent festival takes place at every temple around the country though some may omit the floating of the decorative boat on the river as not all communities or villages are located near a river, but all will do the morning almsgiving procession and decorate lighted boat at the temples.
In Luang Prabang, it is also significant, and here are schedules:
October 5: Early morning almsgiving at every temple followed by the That Phousi and Vat Vixoun festivals.
Where: Phousi and Vat Vixoun
October 6: Decorated boats will be carried from the centre of Luang Prabang to Wat Xiengthong (Xiengthong temple) where they will be taken down to the river and launched from 7pm to 11pm.
Where: Vat Xiengthong
When: October 1 - 6, all days
Where: Chao Anouvong Park, Fa Ngum Road, Vientiane
Vientiane boat racing is one of important Laos festivals, it is huge and the town shuts down as food stalls, games and fairs take over the riverfront.
Featuring boat races as well as street fairs, stalls selling food and drinks, and stage performances. Street fairs is on Fa Ngum Road along the Mekong River from October 1-6, the boat races on October 6 on the Mekong River from early morning till late afternoon.
When: October 5 - 6 all days
Where: Pong village, Xayaboury
There is also boat racing festival In Xayaboury province. It is worth checking out if you happen to be in Xayaboury during that time.
When: October 4-8, @7pm, Entry is free
Where: Fanglao Dance Company theatre, Asean Mall, Vientiane.
The Fanglao Black Box dance performance staged by Fanglao to promote dance and dancers from Lao and other countries will serve up something special.
When: October 14-22 @9:00am - 9pm
Where: Lao-ITECC, (old building)
Featuring local handicraft products from all over the country including hand woven products made from silk, bamboo, wood products and more.
When: October 22 (Sunday)
Where: Luang Prabang, (race starting at the National Museum)
The 5th Luang Prabang Half Marathon.
Registration is now available, registration fees are:
International - US$80 (21.1km Half Marathon), US$50 (14km race) and US$40 (7km race)
Lao National - 160,000 kip, 120,000 kip and 80,000 kip.
All race proceeds will go to Lao Friends Hospital for Children, a non-profit paediatric hospital providing free high quality and compassionate care for the children of Laos.
When: November 3 (trade fair starts earlier, up to 7 days prior)
Where: That Luang, Veintiane
The That Luang Festival takes place at the golden That Luang stupa or Pha That Luang in Vientiane. It involves many religious events including a dawn taak baat or almsgiving where hundreds of monks from all over the country assemble to receive alms and floral votives on the last day of the festival. There is a colourful "wax castle" procession between Wat Si Muang and Pha That Luang and a type of hockey game. The festival also includes a trade fair and many concerts and other events. It ends with fireworks and music and a candlelit procession (vien thien) of That Luang.
When: November 11, @10am – 5pm
Where: Faculty of Engineering, Sokpaluang village, Sisattanak district, Vientiane
Featuring over 100 stalls selling food, handicrafts, second-hand clothes, electronic items and other goodies. Also on the progamme are live performances, music, and a children’s corner with plenty of activities.
For more information: www.facebook.com/wiglaos
When: November 18, @1pm – midnight
Where: Anouvong stadium, Vientiane
Featuring Lao singers Sack Cells, Black Eyes, LOG, Namfon and popular Thai singers Potato, Cocktail, Big Ass, Labanoon, 25 Hours, Make You Freak, DJ Faahsai and McPam with DJ Diana from Korea.
Early bird discount:
Normal Price (anytime from November 1-18)
Tickets are available at Make It Real company, phone: 020 7802 7222, or 020 77799977
November - December
Hmong New Year celebrations takes place around late November to December, before the end of the twelfth lunar calendar month, at the end of the harvest season when all work is done and normally take place where large Hmong communities exist. During the New Year's celebration, Hmong dress in traditional clothing and enjoy traditional foods, dance, music, bull fights, and other forms of entertainment. This time also serves as a matchmaking occasion when young men and women meet and make marriage plans.
January - April (various dates through out the country)
Boun Pha Vet celebrates the jataka or birth-tale of Prince Vestsantara, the Buddha's penultimate life. It is also considered particularly auspicious time for ordination as a monk.
January - February
There are many people of Chinese and Vietnamese heritage who live in Laos as well as migrants from these countries, and the New Year celebration is an important time for them. They celebrate with lion dances and fireworks and special foods.
January - February (full moon night of the 3rd month of lunar calendar)
This religious festival is held at the pre-Angkorian Wat Phu site every year in Champassak province, about 10 hours drive south of Vientiane. It is held on the full moon night of the 3rd month of lunar calendar (in 2018 it falls on 31 January, according to my calculation). A trade fair of products from the southern province of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam is also held 3-5 days prior.
Wat Phu is the most famous Hindu temple complex built in Laos under the Khmer Empire is one of Laos' world heritage sites.
Mid February (dates for 2018 festival is not yet confirmed)
The elephant festival is a two-day celebration organized annually (mid-February) in Xayaboury province. Some 100 elephants and their mahouts from around the area gather to demonstrate working techniques and all things elephantine.
The celebration filled with elephant-related activities such as mahout and elephant shows, elephant procession, monks’ blessings, a traditional elephant Baci ceremony followed by the election of the Elephant of the Year. Visitors can enjoy documentary films on a an outdoor screen or live performances on the main stage. Elephant ride in the nearby forest is also available.
This is the biggest festival of the year all around the country. It is partly a religious festival as it is the time Buddha images are cleansed, but is it also an all-out water festival. For three days be prepared to get wet wherever you go as water is thrown on everyone.
In Luang Prabang there are traditional processions and many other events.
In Vientiane Capital, one of the main roads in central area is closed for vehicles and turned to walking street full of young and old celebrating, drinking, dancing and splashing water to passerby.
May - June (dates for 2018 festival is not yet confirmed)
This is a fun festival when many villages get together and fire huge homemade rockets into the sky to call for rain for the planting season. Be prepared for noise, crowds and lots of beer drinking. Find out more >>
This is the beginning of the three-month long Buddhist Lent. All monks stop travelling and stay at temple for prayer and meditation. It's also time for ordination of men entering a monkhood.
Almsgiving in the morning and candlelit procession (vien thien) in the evening. The festival takes place at temples around the county.